Louis E. Kurth Jr
October 30, 1935 - November 30, 2018
Louis Edward Kurth Jr., long-time resident of Salem, Oregon, passed away peacefully Friday, November 30, 2018, in the home he built.
Born October 30, 1935, in Joliet, Illinois, he moved with his parents, Louis Edward Kurth Sr. and Marguerite Erna (Sing) Kurth, to Portland in 1937. While his father worked as a meat cutter at Swift and Company, “Little Louis” and his parents lived in a small apartment surrounded by neighbors from many other countries. In Louis’s words, “We didn’t know that we weren’t wealthy or didn’t have any money because everybody else was the same way.”
The family moved to Salem in 1939, and two sisters were added to the family. Attendance at Liberty Elementary was followed by Salem High School. But when Louis was 15, his father suffered a broken back in a train accident, and Louis went to work full time to support his family. He crawled on a tractor, and went through the fields to nearby construction sites to ask for work. Louis graduated from high school in 1954, then worked for Mike Porter Excavation before starting his own company.
A lover of cars, particularly vintage models, Louis enjoyed taking his 1932 Ford coupe hot rod out to several nearby drag strips and airports to compete with other racers.
In spring, 1954, Louie met Helen Arlene Lewis through church-league basketball, and they were married December 1, 1956, at Court Street Christian Church. The following year their first daughter, Carole, was born, and the hot rod was exchanged for a family car. Daughter, Melinda, came along, and as Louis was putting the finishing touches on the home he had built in South Salem, the 1962 Columbus Day Storm hit. Louie grabbed his chain saw and began slowly driving from South Salem north through town, cutting up downed trees and clearing roads as he went.
Enlisting in the Oregon National Guard in 1952 at age 17 (while still in high school), Louis was activated when rains flooded Oregon rivers and creeks just before Christmas in 1964. Along with many others, he sandbagged the Salem Hospital and carried patients to safety through the rising waters. His pride in serving his country continued, and in 1974, Louis moved to the Army Reserve, eventually retiring as a full colonel after 34 years in the military.
He was involved in many commercial and private construction projects in the Northwest. Among others in Salem, Kurth Excavation and Louis Kurth Co. helped build the main Salem post office, the underground parking structure at the State Capitol mall, and Gaudy Commons on Willamette University’s campus—including moving and “redesigning” the Mill Stream’s flow through the campus. In 2006 Louis was recognized as Contractor of the Year by the Salem Contractors’ Exchange.
What sums up his life? Kindness, hard work, and integrity in what he did. Louie never left a job half finished. It was entirely done—to the “nth” degree—before he was satisfied. And dirt was even swept from roads on construction jobs. He often saw things that needed to be done, and did them without being asked. He enjoyed a good laugh, traveling the country, eating razor clams, serving his church and others who needed help, surprising his family with adventures, watching John Wayne movies, and spending time with soul mate Helen. While he was somewhat incapacitated by strokes and Parkinson’s Disease in the last two years of his life, Louie remained positive and was determined to not give up. He lived an ordinary life, but lived it extraordinarily—with gratitude, purpose, joy and pride.
Louis is survived by his wife of 62 years, Helen; sisters Bonnie Beach of Gervais, and Cheryl Woodburne of Sumner, WA; daughters Carole Kurth of Salem and Melinda Strobel (Brett) of Tigard; grandchildren Caitlin Kennedy (Evan) of Sun River, Colin Strobel and Peter Strobel of Tigard; and great-granddaughter Madison Kennedy.
A celebration of Louie’s life will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, January 12, 2019, at Court Street Christian Church, followed by interment with military honors at Belcrest Memorial Park at 4 p.m. that afternoon. Visitation is from 2–6 p.m. on Friday, January 11, 2019, at Virgil T. Golden Funeral Service. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Court Street Christian Church.
Thanks, Best-Friend Louie, Dad, Grandpapa, and Great Papa, for an extraordinary example and a life well-lived. We rejoice with you in your ultimate healing!
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